The pandemic and Critical Race Theory have injected new energy into conservative support for school choice. Here, Reason’s Liz Wolfe echoes the standard trope that ‘school choice will help close the racial gap’:
The basic logic is simple: Bad test scores result from bad teachers and bad schools. Fix the schools and teachers, and you fix the racial education gap. But I just don’t buy it anymore. School choice is good for many reasons: parents should have a say in their kids’ education, different kids need different environments, pluralism is intrinsically good, and so on. Improving the educational outcomes of poor kids isn’t one of those reasons.
‘High-quality’ and ‘low-quality’ schools reflect underlying student population rather than produce high test scores. A high-quality school is simply one that has a large percentage of students that, for all sorts of socio-economic reasons, will score well on standardized tests. Changing the student body too much would, to put it bluntly, make the school less high quality.
Yes, I dismiss the possibility that schools can meaningfully improve poor kids learning. And I get why this idea horrifies some of us. But if you are one of those horrified, I think you have to concede that using schools to close racial learning gaps have failed. Though the gaps have narrowed, they’re still large and imposing. Schools cannot eliminate them because education doesn’t work.
Which brings me to my title question. Is there anyone on the right who argues this point? Put another way: is there a right-wing Freddie DeBoer? Is there anyone on the right who notes that that school choice (and education more generally) will not change learning outcomes at scale? I can’t think of anyone.